Probing cooperative force generation in collective cancer invasion

Amani A. Alobaidi, Yaopengxiao Xu, Shaohua Chen, Yang Jiao, Bo Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Collective cellular dynamics in the three-dimensional extracellular matrix (ECM) plays a crucial role in many physiological processes such as cancer invasion. Both chemical and mechanical signaling support cell-cell communications on a variety of length scales, leading to collective migratory behaviors. Here we conduct experiments using 3D in vitro tumor models and develop a phenomenological model in order to probe the cooperativity of force generation in the collective invasion of breast cancer cells. In our model, cell-cell communication is characterized by a single parameter that quantifies the correlation length of cellular migration cycles. We devise a stochastic reconstruction method to generate realizations of cell colonies with specific contraction phase correlation functions and correlation length a. We find that as a increases, the characteristic size of regions containing cells with similar contraction phases grows. For small a values, the large fluctuations in individual cell contraction phases smooth out the temporal fluctuations in the time-dependent deformation field in the ECM. For large a values, the periodicity of an individual cell contraction cycle is clearly manifested in the temporal variation of the overall deformation field in the ECM. Through quantitative comparisons of the simulated and experimentally measured deformation fields, we find that the correlation length for collective force generation in the breast cancer diskoid in geometrically micropatterned ECM (DIGME) system is , which is roughly twice the linear size of a single cell. One possible mechanism for this intermediate cell correlation length is the fiber-mediated stress propagation in the 3D ECM network in the DIGME system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number045005
JournalPhysical biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 28 2017


  • ECM deformation
  • breast cancer discoid
  • collective force generation
  • phase correlation function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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